Tips for Your New, Smoke-Free Life

Now that you’ve put cigarettes in the past, you’ll want to adjust your routine and your surroundings to keep them out of your new lifestyle.

Clean house. A good start is to get rid of ashtrays, lighters, and other household items that remind you of smoking, says Diane Beneventi, PhD, a behavioral psychologist with the Tobacco Treatment Program at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. 

Hack your routines. Make changes to avoid the places and times when you used to smoke, Beneventi says. For example, if you smoked right after dinner, go for a walk instead. If you had a cigarette with your morning coffee at home, go to work and drink your coffee there.

Make a rule. Don’t let anyone smoke in your home or car. Successful quitters are more likely to have rules against smoking in their homes, according to the CDC. It’s also a good idea to ban other people from smoking in your car.

Notice your triggers. Pay attention to the people, places, and things that make you want to smoke.

“You have to learn to do the things you do every day without cigarettes,” says Keith Heinzerling, MD, medical director at UCLA’s Center for Behavioral and Addiction Medicine. “If there’s a place where you always have a cigarette with somebody, your brain remembers that.”

Triggers to smoke can include:

  • Your morning routine
  • Being around smokers
  • Stress
  • Boredom
  • Driving
  • Drinking coffee or tea
  • Drinking alcohol

Note it. Before he quit smoking, Dan Ludert of Lincoln, NE, kept a small notebook the size of a cigarette pack next to his cigarettes and wrote down where and when he had each cigarette. That helped avoid those situations when he quit, so he could avoid the urge to smoke as much as possible, he says.

Wait it out. The physical withdrawal to nicotine is strongest during the first week, but the mental cravings can keep coming back. Still, the urge rarely lasts longer than 10 minutes. So hang in there and know that it will pass!

Continued

Clean up. Clean your car, clothes, furniture, and drapes to get the smell of smoke out of them. The smell can serves as a trigger. Once they’re clean, you will have another reason not to smoke.

Replace your cigs. It can also help to store nicotine gum, straws, or other items to fight cravings where you normally kept your cigarettes.

Leave the scene. If you do encounter a friend who is smoking or some other situation where you would normally have the urge to smoke, your choice is “fight or flight,” Heinzerling says. You can be with your friend and fight the desire to smoke, or get away from the situation.

“Flight” is easier, especially early on, Heinzerling says.

Walk it off. “Go on a walk instead of going to the smoking place when you take your afternoon break at work,” Heinzerling says. 

Switch your drinks. Instead of regular coffee or alcohol, you might want to switch to decaf or water.

Use a substitute. When the urge hits, put something else in your mouth. You could try sugarless gum, hard candy, sunflower seeds, straws and coffee stirrers, and raw vegetables such as carrot sticks.

Work it out. Rebecca Cox-MacDonald of Jupiter, FL, credits exercise for helping her quit smoking after 36 years. She started by pushing her new grandson, Ian, alternating walking and running. Six months later, Cox-MacDonald says she ran her first 5K road race.

“Whatever reason you picked up that first cigarette, once you separate yourself from it you truly can move on and be a new, healthy person,” she says.

Line up support. A family member, friend, counselor, or sponsor in a group like Nicotine Anonymous will help give you confidence to resist the urge to smoke, Heinzerling says.

“When you’re on your own, that little voice comes into the back of your head and doubts come up,” Heinzerling says. “When you’re part of a group, there’s strength in numbers.”

You can find online resources, in-person support groups, apps, and phone hotlines.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on December 20, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

Keith Heinzerling, MD, medical director, UCLA Center for Behavioral and Addiction Medicine.

Diane Beneventi, PhD, supervising behavioral psychologist, Tobacco Treatment Program, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Dan Ludert, Lincoln, NE.

Rebecca Cox-MacDonald, Jupiter, FL.

Smokefree.gov: “Get Active,” “Smokefree Text Messaging Programs,” “Smokefree Apps,” “Smokefree Text Messaging Programs,” “Understanding Nicotine Withdrawal,” “Build Your Quit Plan.”

American Cancer Society: “Staying Tobacco-free After You Quit.”

Become An Ex: “Relearn life without cigarettes.”

American Journal of Public Health: "Factors Associated With Successful Smoking Cessation in the United States."

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